Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss
The explosion of U.S. craft breweries and cideries in recent years has meant that beer and hard cider drinkers have more eco-friendly options than ever. But what exactly constitutes an eco-friendly brew? Local sourcing, organic ingredients, sustainable farming practices, energy-efficient machinery and operations, water conservation, recyclable or biodegradable packaging and the use of renewable energy are a few of the hallmarks. While a given brand doesn’t have to employ all of them to market itself as eco-friendly, the more it can toe the green line from farm to table, the better.
Consumers can start their research online as to which beers and ciders are both sustainable and available locally, and then continue with real world taste-testing at a bar, restaurant or at home. At the grocer, check out the labels on available beers and ciders to see if any carry one or more sustainability-oriented certification labels, such as USDA Organic, Fair Trade or Salmon-Safe.
Some of the most popular eco-friendly beers include Peak Organic’s Fresh Cut Pilsner and Super Juice DIPA, Eel River’s Organic IPA, Wicked Weed Appalachia Session IPA, Ninkasi Brewing’s Cold Fermented Lager, Hopworks Urban Brewery’s HUB Lager, Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, Lawson’s Finest Liquids Kingdom Trails IPA, Sierra Nevada Dankful Generously Hoppy IPA, Alaskan Brewing Company Icy Bay IPA, Great Lakes Brewing Company Burning River Pale Ale, Cantillon’s Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio and Brasserie Dupont’s Foret Organic Saison, Fort George Brewery’s Vortex IPA, Full Sail’s Oregon Original Amber, Brewdog’s Italian Pale Ale, Rhinegeist Brewing Fruited Sour, Fairstate Brewing’s Smell Test Hazy IPA, Toast Ale’s Session IPA, Brewery Vivant’s Tee Patrol, New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger, Humboldt Brewing’s Black Xantus, and Upslope Brewing’s Pumpkin Ale.
As for hard cider, which has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in the last decade, sustainable varieties also abound. Some favorites include Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider, JK’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Organic Hard Cider, Flag Hill Farm’s Sapsucker Organic Hard Cider and Coronado Nice, Tieton Organic Hard Cider, North Country Cider’s Original Press, and Dry USDA Certified Organic Cider.
While these premium beer and cider options represent a small piece of the overall U.S. market, consumers are increasingly upgrading from light beers to these products as they learn more about them. Market research firm International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) reports that while “standard-and-below” beer volumes are expected to continue declining in the U.S. at a rate of about five percent a year (mostly thanks to Americans increasingly turning to spirits-based hard seltzers instead), volumes of “premium-and-above” beers and ciders—like those mentioned above—are expected to increase some three percent annually, thus representing the future of the beer and cider industries in the U.S. Whether you like beer or hard cider a lot or a little, you can do your part to help out the planet by considering just who is making it and whether or not they are taking the environment into account in the process.
CONTACTS: USDA Organic Standards, https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards; Key Trends For The U.S. Beer Market in 2023, https://www.theiwsr.com/key-trends-for-the-us-beer-market-in-2023/; Fair Trade International, https://www.fairtrade.net/; Salmon-Safe, https://salmonsafe.org/.
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